My timing is perfect. I spend the weekend at home, soaking up family time. Monday I fly back into San Angelo and just barely pick up my rental car when the phone rings.
“The women have been kicked out of the shelter, separated from their children. Get to the ranch immediately. The FLDS are going to let us in.”
Wow. Can you even imagine the idea of the FLDS holding a press conference, let alone letting us onto their sacred YFZ Ranch? The place where they’ve built their temple? To think that just a few days ago my helicopter ride over the YFZ was the best access I’d ever had.
I get there quick and a huge media convoy is lined up at the gate waiting to get in. We wait, and wait. An FLDS guy at the gate is keeping a list of which networks and newspapers everyone is with. They are keeping us waiting until a crew from a certain Utah news outlet shows up. The sun is getting lower and the national media are getting very cranky, complaining to the FLDS guy at the gate about making us wait.
I find out later that the people we were waiting for were at a grocery store filling prescriptions and buying oranges. I guess they didn’t know that CNN, the networks, and even People Magazine were waiting on them.
There are many photos from this first-ever FLDS media event. (It was the first ever, right?) So I’m just going to go through them in the order they were shot (and there will be more posts to come). Here’s what I saw when we drove onto the ranch and up to the building where everything would happen:
These women had arrived back home at the YFZ Ranch earlier today after CPS separated them from their children.
They lined up and watched as the media unloaded their gear and got set up. We were all unsure as to how this would take place. Up until now, the FLDS didn’t talk, so what would happen?
Rod Parker (above) gave the women some tips, which from memory amounted to telling them to simply tell their stories. Parker advised all of the media to not stand too close and not crowd in on anybody. You know, not swoop in and swarm anyone like a big media pack will often do. We all agreed, but after a few minutes it was just a big mingle and everyone on all sides seemed okay with that.
I started out photographing this woman as she told her story. Other women (mostly younger) stayed up on the balcony. Maybe they weren’t in any condition to talk about what had happened.
I focused in on this woman, Sally, who was talking about how the women were separated from their children:
Tears in her eyes.
I’ve heard from people that they felt the FLDS didn’t seem to cry enough when talking about their kids being taken, that there were no tears in their eyes.
I can only point out the situation as I have before: these are mothers who had their children taken away. Thousands of years of human history tell us that whether or not the removal of the children was justified or not, the mothers will be devastated.
You can argue about the right or wrong of it. My role is to illustrate the story, nothing more.